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01/15/15 01/15/15 [captioning made possible by democracy now!] >> from pacifica this is democracy now! it was a night of june 9, 2006 when three guantánamo prisoners mysteriously died. >> they are smart. they are creative. there committed. i believe this was not an act of desperation, but rather an act of warfare aged against us. >> the pentagon said the guantánamo prisoners committed suicide, but were the prisoners actually tortured to death at a secret cia black site?
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today in a broadcast exclusive we will speak with joseph hickman, who served as a staff sergeant at gitmo. he has just published a book titled, "murder at camp delta." then, women on waves. >> we can legally help women seek abortion. >> we're here in solidarity with women who have been denied their human rights. >> the new film "vessel" looks at how a dutch doctor managed to open access to safe abortion in countries were the procedure is illegal. we will speak to dr. rebecca gomperts of women on waves and filmmaker diana whitten. all that and more, coming up. welcome to democracy now, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman. new satellite images and witness accounts have emerged of what
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amnesty international calls the "catastrophic destruction" from a massacre in northern nigeria. hundreds are feared dead after boko haram militants attacked baga and surrounding areas earlier this month. before and after images taken of two adjacent towns show thousands of buildings damaged or destroyed. amnesty says one town was completely wiped off the map. one witness who managed to flee told amnesty -- "i don't know how many but there were bodies everywhere we looked." the nigerian military has claimed a toll as low as 150 but it could be as high as 2,000. amnesty said -- "of all boko haram assaults analyzed by amnesty international, this is the largest and most destructive yet -- a deliberate attack on civilians whose homes, clinics and schools are now burnt out ruins." in underground belgium arms
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dealer has turn himself into police in brussels, saying he sold the weapons to the gunmen in last week's paris attacks. french authorities have also reportedly identified the accomplice of amedy coulibaly who killed four in a kosher supermarket. the news comes hours after al qaeda took responsibility for the charlie hebdo massacre, saying was ordered by the top leader on wednesday, charlie hebdo published its first issue since the attack featuring a cover of the prophet mohammed holding a sign that reads "je su is charlie" with the headline, "all is forgiven." the issue was published in five countries with filing copies of from the normal circulation of 60,000. the islamic state has launched a series of new attacks across iraq killing dozens of people. according to al jazeera, at least 16 kurdish peshmerga soldiers were killed today in an
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isis offensive on the mosul dam. other attacks were reported in the town of sinjar and another flashpoint area in diyala province. the pentagon says the u.s.-led coalition carried out 12 strikes on isis positions inside iraq overnight. general john allen, the u.s. envoy for the global coalition said iraq is on the front lines of the campaign against isis following the recent attacks in paris and other western cities. >> as we saw so tragically in paris last week, iraq is on the frontlines of the global conflict. i was in paris last week reading with french and european counterparts as the crisis there was unfolding. and it was a stark reminder that dark violent ideology has a long reach, even before paris we saw terrorists inspired by dash reeked havoc another
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coalitions in sydney and ottawa in brussels. >> the united nations has issued a new appeal for syrian refugees as a harsh winter sets in. the u.n. refugee agency says two thirds of syrian refugees in jordan are now living below the absolute poverty line of $96 per month. the unicef's post person said more children are in danger by the day. >> children's need has been growing on a daily basis. planning has been externally challenging doing to the increasing number of families moving and being displaced, now having to resort to desperate measures including moving to settlements as a last resort. >> five yemeni prisoners have been freed from the u.s. military prison at guantánamo . four were sent to oman while another has gone to estonia, the
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first time either country has agreed to take in former prisoners. the five have been cleared for release for many years, but the u.s. has refused to send them to yemen. the pentagon says there are now 122 prisoners left at guantánamo. an ohio man has been arrested for an alleged plot to attack the u.s. capital. authorities say was inspired by the islamic state. an fbi informant said christopher cornell plan to set off pipe bombs in a fire on congressional staffers. they started tracking him after he expressed support for violent jihad on twitter. federal prosecutors in mexico have formally charged the mayor of iguala the kidnapping of 43 students in late september. police had accused he and his wife of spearheading the attack, but it is the first time his been indicted. the students were allegedly abducted by local police working with drug gangs. according to one report
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possibly federal forces as well. parent of the disappeared students, meanwhile, have launched a civilian search in the region of guerrero where the students were last seen. hundreds of people, including members of community police forces students, and members of civil society, are scouring rural areas were the have received tips the students may be held captive. the father of one of the missing students is helping coordinate the search. >> i personally have gone to more than 100 places to look for my son and we have not found them, not even one of the students. from my perspective, it is because the government, the military is holding them. this is all planned by them, including the governor. the government definitely knows where they are, but they don't want to give us the answer. this enrages me as a mexican. i am embarrassment and realize what government exists and what kind of government we have here
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in guerrero state. >> the republican-controlled house of representatives here in the united states has voted to undo major portions of president obama's executive action and immigration. the measure would strip the legal protections offered to millions of undocumented immigrants as part of a reprieve granted last year. or than two dozen republicans broke with their party to oppose the measure. president obama has promised a veto if it reaches his desk. and those are some of the headlines, this is democracy now!,, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman with nermeen shaikh. >> welcome to all our listeners and viewers from around the untry and around the world. thirteen years ago this month, the united states opened its notorious prison at guantanamo bay in cuba. at its peak, nearly 800 men were held there. today the prison population has dipped to 122. on wednesday, the pentagon announced five more prisoners -- all of them yemenis -- would be released. four of the men were transferred to oman, the fifth to estonia. today we are going to look at one of the great mysteries of
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guantánamo -- what happened on the night of june 9, 2006 when three prisoners died. authorities at guantánamo said the three men, yasser talal al-zahrani, salah ahmed al-salami and mani shaman al-utaybi, all committed suicide. the commander at guantánamo rear admiral harry harris, described their deaths as an "act of asymmetrical warfare." >> they are smart. they are creative. they are committed. have no regard for many the hours with her own. i believe this was not an act of desperation, rather an active symmetric warfare waged against us. >> >> but many questions about the night remain unanswered. harper's magazine contributing editor scott horton first raised questions about what happened on that night in a 2010 piece headlined, "the guantánamo 'suicides.'" for the piece, horton won a
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national magazine award for reporting. horton appeared on democracy now! at the time. he questioned the findings of the naval criminal investigation service which investigated the deaths. >> we were able to see how the heck included the suicides occurred -- how they concluded the suicides occurred, and stated these three prisoners bound their feet, found their hands with cloth stuffed cloth down their throats and at least in some cases, put masks over their faces to hold the cloth in place, fashioned manikins of themselves to put in their beds to deceive the guards, put up cloth to obstruct the view of cameras, fashioned a news, which they attached at the top of an eight foot wire wall, stepped up as her hands and feet are bound and their gagging on cloth, stepped up on top of a washbasin , put their head through the news, tightknit, and jumped off.
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and moreover, that these three prisoners and nonadjacent cells did all of these things absolutely simultaneously in a clockwork-like fashion. so the story simply incredible. simply, not believable i should stress. >> that was reporter and attorney scott horton speaking >> horton went on reveal the three men who died may have been interrogated that night at a secret cia black site facility at guantánamo known as camp no, or penny lane. horton based his reporting on guantanamo in part on testimony from a whistleblower, staff sergeant joseph hickman who was on guard that night at camp delta. hickman has been most of his life in the military. he was awarded a medal in the army commendation medal while he was stationed with the six under 20 night military intelligence battalion in guantánamo bay. he was praised for dealing with the prison revolt in may 2006 when by his own estimation, he
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became the first u.s. soldier to give the order to fire on prisoners at guantánamo bay. >> staff sergeant joseph men -- hickman has just published a book about the deaths. it is titled, "murder at camp delta: a staff sergeant's pursuit of the truth about guantanamo bay." since leaving the military joseph hickman began working as an independent researcher for the seton hall university school of law's center for policy and research. he joins us from green bay wisconsin. we are also joined here in new york by the director of the center, seton hall professor mark denbeaux. the center has just published a new report titled, "guantanamo: america's battle lab." joseph hickman, thank you so much for being with us. can you talk about that night the night of june 9, 2006? talk about what you saw. >> on june 9, i was what was called sergeant of the guard. i was in charge of any different
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places in guantánamo, different posts that were being manned by other soldiers. one of my posts i was in charge of was the towers in camp delta. i went to visit the guards that were manning those posts. i went up to the tower. when i was up there, i saw a vehicle, a van. we called it the padded wagon. it pulled into camp delta and backed up to the entrance of cap one. from there i saw the driver get out and his assistant go to also block --alpha block, take a detainee out and put them in the paddy wagon. they then drove off, left camp delta, made a quick right and then a left that headed down the road out of the camps, out of
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camp america. about 20 minutes later, the paddy wagon came back. he repeated the same thing. it back up to camp one the two people in the paddy wagon went to alpha lock grabbed another detainee, and with the same route. at this time i started to get suspicious, wondering where he was going. so 20 minutes later, they came back a third time. this time when they backed up to one, i knew they were getting another detainee, but i wanted to see where that patty wagon was going exactly so i left and went to the entrance and cap america, which is called acp roosevelt. when the van finally past the checkpoint, if it was straight
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was going to the main base. but 100 meters past the checkpoint, he made a left. which meant it was going -- you could only go to two places in 2006 athat time. you could go to the beach or you could go to a place that we called a soldiers camp no. >> no as in n-0. >> as and it is not there and it doesn't exist. >> a black site. >> yes. >> what did you know about the site when you first came across it that night on june 9 2006? >> i knew a little about it before hand. we did not know much of the time. we discovered it while we were on mobile troll one day when we stopped to take a break, the and a couple of other soldiers. i actually will never forget the day because when we stopped, it was hot.
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we just wanted to take a break and find some shade under some brush. when we did stop, we noticed a fence an wire. we got close to see what was there, me and another soldier that was in the humvee with me at the time. when we went up to defense -- we could actually see the buildings of camp no. they looked exactly like the detainee facility. like camp echo --it was constructed the same way. we just knew it was a detainee facility. it looked like a kbr building. i just remember the guy a was with, the guard i was with, he just said, you know what we just found? and i said, what do you think it is? and he said, we just found our our schlitz -- auschwitz.
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>> what gave him the impression? what did he say auschwitz? >> it was obvious to us it was a detainee holding facility that was completely off the books. >> so talk about what happened later that night, joseph hickman . now we are talking about, june 10, the night of june 9. what happened to those three prisoners you saw in characteristically in metal handcuffs, is that right, when it were taken away as opposed to plastic cuffs? >> they were handcuffed. the one thing that i noticed after i saw them leave the camps, the rest of the night went pretty quiet until around 11:30 when the paddy wagon returned, but instead of going to camp one, he went to the
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detainee medical clinic. it backed up to the detainee medical clinic entrance and open its backdoors or i did not have a visual because you could not see through them and it appeared there were loading something to the medical clinic. just 15 to 20 minutes later at the most, all of the lights come on and sirens are going off. it is complete panic in the camps. i didn't know what was going on, but i went down and saw -- i left the tower and saw a corpsman inside the medical clinic. i knew him. i went up to her and i said, what is going on? she said, three detainees killed themselves. they stuffed rags down their throats.
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so right there, a few minutes later, i'm not sure, new minutes later, but i saw colonel bumgardner and he told me, we're going to have a meeting right after work at 0700 at the theater and i want everybody there. everybody you have on duty, i want them there. >> so far as you are aware joseph hickman, how long was camp no in operation and what happened to the facility after these three men died? >> personally, all i can tell you is it was open -- it was there from march 2006-march 2007. i don't know how often they had detainees there or how often it was manned, but i know -- i would say from when we discovered it sometime in april two june when i saw them go to
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camp no, it was operational then. later on people have reported it was -- it closed sometime in 2006. >> sergeant hickman, what happened at that meeting that you were all called to attend? >> everybody was there that was on duty that night. colonel baumgardner got in front of everyone and said, three detainees committed suicide last night. they shoved rags down their throats. but you're going to hear something different on the media -- from the media. and he said, you're not to speak to anyone at home. you are not to speak to -- you're not to write letters about thismber, we are monitoring you. nsa is monitoring you.
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he gave us a direct order not to speak about the suicides. >> there were four reporters on the base at the time? >> there was reporters on the base. they were told to leave the base immediately. they were not allowed to stick around after the deaths. >> did you start to ask questions right away? >> i started to ask questions the next day when i saw admiral harris on cnn. i mean, right away it was suspicious for colonel bumgardner. i was watching cnn from the chow hall and admiral harris called it asymmetrical warfare and said they hung themselves. i knew right away that no one hung themselves in camp one. it was completely impossible from my standpoint, from the guards under me, that were serving in that area, no one saw
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any detainees transferred from camp one to the medical clinic. it just did not happen. >> what did you do? >> well, i waited. i waited because i knew there was going to be an investigation. i knew ncis was investigating the deaths. so i waited for them to come interview me and i would tell them what i saw. that day never came. ncis never interviewed the guards that were in the towers in the area or the guards there were literally 25 meters away at most from the medical clinic. they never interviewed any of us. >> we are going to take a break and then come back to this discussion. we're talking to joseph hickman former army staff sergeant. he was stationed in guantanamo from march 2006 to march 2007. his book "murder at camp delta"
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has just been published. this is his first broadcast interview. we will be back in a moment. ♪ [music break]
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>> this is democracy now!,, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman with nermeen shaikh. our guests are joseph hickman former army staff sergeant. he was stationed in guantanamo from march 2006 to march 2007. he has just published a new book called, "murder at camp delta." we're also joined by mark denbeaux a professor at seton , hall university school of law and the director of its center for policy and research. he's a co-author of the new report, "guantanamo: america's battle lab." >> mark denbeaux, you have worked on this issue of what happened that night to 9, 2000
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six in guantanamo for many years. you also worked with joseph hickman on this. and your research center has just come out with a new report called "guantanamo: america's , battle lab." could you lay out what you find in this report? >> our investigation over this time first found the ncis report could not have been a credible the legitimate ops process. our next question was, and we published something on that called "death at camp delta." the next question was, how could it be so incompetent? it was one thing to imagine given people who wanted to cover it up, but why would investigative bodies cover-up deaths? our second report was called "uncovering the coverups" which came out last summer. a the real question still was, what is the motive? it turns out the motive that we found, which was before the senate report came out, was quite clear that the general in charge of the camp had been
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placed there by the chair of the joint chiefs of staff in february 2002, the general who thought it was in charge of the camp who was an mp who is applying the geneva are general in charge of detention, an mp. as such, he was applying the geneva conventions. he was removed in general dunleavy replaced him, followed by general miller. general don leavy has, under oath said that he got his marching orders directly from the president of the united states requiring him to meet in person once a week with secretary of defense donald rumsfeld and general dunleavy and his successor general miller have both repeatedly characterized guantánamo as an anarchist battle lab. >> what does that mean? >> the best thing we are been able to figure out -- that phrase caught everyone's attention. the first thing we looked into was, what were the experiments?
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we were able to find and discover some of the laboratory experiments were there, including giving them drugs that would cause psychotic breaks from to 30 days as soon as they arrived, and a variety of other things that were given to them over a long period of time. >> which had never been used in any context before. >> they claim the drug was to use for malaria. there is no malaria in guantánamo or cuba and every person who is brought their head re: had a medical examination -- there had already had a medical examination and proven to have no contagious diseases. so it was a psychotic inducing drug, which had been used for considerable period of time by other sources in order to break down the state of mind of the people. >> professor, you're saying this can't was used to experiment on people. >> yes. that is what general dumbly be referred to when you refer to it
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as america's battle lab. that is what general miller was referring to he described guantánamo as america's battle lab, and he was deadly be -- dunleavy's successor. they gave them these drugs the minute people arrived. >> go back to june 9 2006 to june 10. we have just heard staff sergeant joseph hickman describe what he saw as the prisoners were taken away. what did you come to understand? >> he contacted us three days after president obama was inaugurated describing something that seemed implausible. it was simply counterintuitive to imagine that these people had died as he reported them. we spent today's interviewing him and we're still somewhat skeptical. our students then took the ncis report that had come out, which was 1700 pages of jumbled,
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redacted information, and what through it. it took them three months to go through it. they would make little discoveries that was sort of support joseph's position. one was, they all had rigor mortis when they came in a clinic. how could that be if you are hanging in a cell being watched by five guards, 24 people being watched by five guards and are supposed to see them every three minutes? once they found that, the student sort of began to peel layers away. they discovered the only guards who had ever reported that the detainees were dead hanging in our cells prior to make that statement have been formally advised, had their miranda rights, had made all statements prior to that, and if they had a right to remain silent. -- they had right to counsel and the right to remain silent. when my student said, why would you have every one of the witnesses to the event have to have a formal miranda warning
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documented -- that they had to sign? another student said, if they made false day missed ncis before that, where are they in the file? when nobody could find those false statements, it just led to information piling up after piling up and i think we used to joke we had a student named kelly. kelly was from kansas. our view was come if kelly would buy a hostile negative conclusion, then it had to be true. kelly ended up concluding that did not hang themselves in their cells and if they didn't, they could not be suicide. kelly from kansas ended up convincing everybody on a group that we had to at least go so far as to say the ncis investigation was not credible, and then she ended up coming up with a title called "death in camp delta." nobody wanted to call it murder because we did not know, but could not illegal suicides of a compromise to be careful was
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"death in camp delta." we brought that to scott horton and joseph hickman. >> when scott horton austria's harper's piece called "the guantánamo 'suicides'" appeared in january 2010, it came under some criticism. the piece was based in large part on testimony you provided. the naval criminal investigative service said -- "according to the harper's article, sergeant hickman was stationed on the exterior perimeter of the camp, including tower 1, the night of the detainees' deaths. from this location, he had no visibility into the cellblock and cells where the deaths occurred, a fact confirmed by fbi and doj investigators who were specifically tasked to look into sergeant hickman's allegations. ncis conducted over 100 interviews during the first three days of the investigation, including interviews with all the guards who worked in the cellblock that day and all the detainees who were housed there. none of those interviewed told
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of any detainees being taken away or alleged homicide." joseph hickman, could you respond to that criticism of what they say you are able to witness or see that night come in 29, 2006? >> one thing the ncis -- ordinary response, they told it best, half truth about where i was and what my duties were. yes, i did have responsibilities on the perimeter of camp delta but i also had responsibilities inside camp delta. and more than -- probably more than 50% of my time was spent inside of the camp where they try to say he was just a perimeter guard. where the other time i was outside in the perimeter. so that night, i was inside camp
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delta. i was in the camp. i was 35 feet to 40 feet away from the medical clinic. i had three guards, at best, 25 meters away from the medical clinic. i had another garter -- guard in a tower directly looking at camp one, the walkway, and a total of seven guards that had -- that could visually see camp one in the medical clinic and had a clear and unobstructed view. none of those guards were interviewed by ncis. >> none of those guards were interviewed? the once are able to see whether the prisoners were taken away? >> the tower guards, the guys in the sky. none were interviewed. the guards that were posted just across the street from the medical clinic. none of them were interviewed. they would be the first ones you
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would intervene. and for them to say i was a perimeter guard he threw a lot of people off. that is where the criticism came from. i don't blame the people that criticized me, because they are taking their word. but i also think -- the thing is, the unique position i had where i was in the camp and outside the camp on certain duties, it gave me an even more -- it gave me a better position to tell what was going on because i could leave camp delta and see where the van was going. i could go inside camp delta and see the detainees been loaded into the van. the position was beneficial not how they tried to explain it. >> mark denbeaux? >> one of the important things about the statement, because they were critical of joe in our report, one of the critical statement was that where joe was, he could not see into the
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cells. that is a disingenuous statement because sergeant hickman never said he could see in there. he said he was standing by the clinic where if they had been brought from the cells found dead hanging, they would had to have walked within 10 yards of him. so he was in a place to show the bodies were never brought into the clinic from the camp. >> joseph hickman, when he noticed these discrepancies, you first took him to the department of justice. how do they respond to your concerns about what happened that night? >> i met two fbi agents and i met an attorney -- to attorneys from the department of justice at seton hall law school with my attorney josh denbeaux and mark denbeaux. they seem very interested in what happened. they asked a lot of questions. i was really encouraged by their interest in what i was telling them. >> joseph hickman who is your
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favorite president? >> ronald reagan. >> and you were the first officer on the camp to have soldiers opened fire on the prisoners during an uprising among them? >> yes. i'm a surgeon. i am enlisted. i'm not an officer. i was the first one to ever give the order to fire on detainees. >> did your view of the camp change were of the prison change ? how did it change in that year you were there? >> well, it is a big culture shock when you get the guantánamo the first time in your overseeing detainees and see how they live. it was a difficult uncomfortable place to be. you first get there and you see these detainees housed in the
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six by eight cells and you know they've been there for years living in these cells for years, getting one hour of rec time a week. you know there are some serious human rights issues. it did affect me. it was the first place i was ever stationed -- every soldier takes a note to support and defend the constitution of the united states. it was the first duty station was ever at where i action started questioning, was i breaking my oath? >> mark denbeaux, from the investigations that you have done on what happened that night, and do you have any sense of -- were the three detainees or they deliberately targeted or was an experiment gone wrong? >> i guess the answer is, i don't know. three people died under circumstances that were different from the investigative report. i think probably the closest i
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can get to is trying to figure out what the motive would be for these coverups and these false statements. i think my own view is, a legitimate investigation into what would have caused their deaths -- and answered your question, was a deliberate or accidental -- what apparently have revealed a great till of other activities that were taking place in guantánamo that would have been something that our administration at that time would never have wanted to be revealed. they certainly would not have wanted it to show guantánamo was an intelligence operation, not a detailed -- not a detention center. always wonder what it would bring the most interest people closer to the united states. of course, it turns out the answer was, it was part of this program that began with marching orders directly from president bush. i've concluded we don't know why or how they died by an experiment or otherwise when the investigation into that would have answered that question, but it also would have revealed
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things the general dunleavy and general miller inadvertently revealed later on. >> sergeant joseph hickman, you knew at that time that prisoners were taken away from where you were if they wanted to break them or turn them to be cia assets, is that right? >> i did not know that at the time. i did occasionally see detainees transported prior to june 9 to camp no, but i did not know at the time they were doing that operation. >> and so what have you come to conclude right now? about what this prison represents? you know, one of the recordings that has come out in the horror that took place in paris was that amedy coulibaly, the man who opened fire in a kosher supermarket, speaking sort of ranting in the supermarket -- a
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reporter called and he picked up the phone and thought he hung it up, but they were able to record what he was saying. he referred to isis and iraq, and he also said -- it was a little hard to understand some of but "stop unveiling our women, stop putting our brothers in prison for everything and anything." what guantánamo has come to represent -- in the united states, they're using it to say we could never close it now, especially republicans who are for opposed to closing it because we need a for terrorist. that what you now see it has come to represent in the rest of the world? >> well, we pride ourselves on human rights and this is ridiculous. we have a place that breaks so many human rights it is ridiculous.
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i don't think there should be a guantánamo. i think people should be charged for crimes, but i think it should be here in the united states. >> do you think guantánamo threatens our national security? >> yes. i think it breeds terrorism. >> in what way? >> well, i think the recidivism numbers are wrong that they come out with but if you take a guy that was sent to guantánamo offers a bounty -- off of a bounty from another tribe and he sits there for 10, 12 years, his family comes to hate the united states. he himself hates the united states. when he gets out, how are these people going to respond to what we did to them? >> last question is about another prisoner, the prisoner
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that happen the same night on june 9, 2006. his attorney described the torture in a federal filing. scott horton accepted the statement said -- the military police inflicted so much pain the man thought he was going to die. this is the same night as the other three prisoners that died. do you know about this? >> yes, i obtained the document actually. the detainee amir, if you notice in the affidavit, there are a lot of similarities to the
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three that did die. there was a mask put on his face. there were a lot of similarities -- blockage of the airway several things. it was pretty shocking when we discovered that. >> i want to thank you for being with us. is there any last statement you would like to make, having written your book "murder at camp delta" having served at guantánamo, in light of what has taken place now in the world, joseph hickman, speaking to us from green bay? >> well, i would just like to say i wrote this book so the truth could come out. and people will notice i dedicated it to the father of one of the detainees who has always questioned the u.s. government's version of what happened that night. i hope in some way this answers some questions and in an odd way, gives him some piece of you knows the truth. >> joseph hickman, they could
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for being with us a former army , staff sergeant. he was stationed in guantanamo from march 2006 to march 2007. his book "murder at camp delta" has just been published. and mark denbeaux is a professor at seton hall university school of law and the director of its center for policy and research. he's a co-author of the new report, "guantanamo: america's battle lab." we will link to it at when we come back, a remarkable story of a doctor in amsterdam who decides to challenge laws against abortion around the world to protect women's reproductive rights. she takes to the high seas. stay with us. ♪ [music break]
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>> this is democracy now!,, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman with nermeen shaikh. >> the new congress opened last week with the largest republican majority in the house since the 1940's. within a few days, lawmakers in both congressional chambers had already introduced five bills to restrict abortion access including a ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. at the state level, republicans have taken control of a historic number of legislative chambers and announced efforts to roll back abortion access and cut funding for women's health. amidst an unprecedented surge in state-level restrictions, the group naral pro-choice america has released its report card on women's reproductive rights. it gave the united states a d. >> we turn now to a film that looks at how a dutch doctor managed to open access to safe abortion in countries where it is illegal. the new film "vessel" follows
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dr. rebecca gomperts, who founded women on waves, an organization that set sail on a ship to provide abortions off the coasts of countries where it is illegal. in international waters, a country's abortion bans do not apply. as they sailed from port to port, women on waves faced both deep gratitude from women seeking abortions and aggressive attempts to stop them. in this trailer you'll hear some of the anti-choice protesters who gathered at ports in poland, where they chanted, "welcome nazis," to spain, where opponents actually attempted to tow women on waves' vessel out to sea using a rope. but first you'll hear the voice of rebecca gomperts. >> were countries are abortion is illegal. could not just let it happen.
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>> the police will come. let people board the ship. crooks people have the basic human right to decide what is happening with their bodies. >> the ship as a symbol of freedom.
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>> i am scared i will die. can you really help me? >> are joined from amsterdam by rebecca gomperts, the dutch dr. who founded women on waves and an online support service that helps women obtain and safely take medications to induce abortion. and diana whitten joins us in your director of "vessel" which has been showing here in new york in a committee screenings around the world and also on sale on itunes. she is worked on this for seven years. tell is the premise of "vessel." it is an astounding story. >> it follows rebecca's work over the past 10 years basically -- 13 years, from this wild idea she had to use the
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offshore space construct to get abortions on a ship at sea and traces the evolution of the organization and all of the antagonist that came their way akamai's to strengthen the projects -- optimized to strengthen their projects. >> dr.g, tell us how you learned abortions on international waters would make abortions illegal, even from people were country it is illegal. >> thank you so much, amy. at the time, i was a ship's doctor at greenpeace and we were sailing to south america. when i was there, i talked to doctors and women about abortion because i was being trained as an abortion provider as well. it was these stories and shared
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with the crew. the crew said, if you have a ship, you could take these women into international waters, which is 12 miles offshore, and help them with a safe abortion if the ship is registered under the dutch flag. it was the idea of the crew at the time that assailed with a greenpeace. i decided to investigate it because i thought it was a very interesting idea. this is how it started. >> i want to turn to what happened when women on waves tried to sell to portugal and warships worsen out to meet you. this is rebecca gomperts. >> in the middle of the night, i got a phone call from the ship's captain of the portuguese government has sent warships to stop the ship from selling to international water. -- stop the ship from sailing into international waters.
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>> that is a portuguese warship demanding the navigational plans of the women on waves ship. rebecca gomperts, talk about what happened in portugal. >> when the ship was on its way to portugal, the minister of defense who was a religious right-wing minister, he claimed the ship was violating the security of the state of portugal and said they were not allowed to enter the port. at the same time, they sent warships to prevent the ship from sailing in. it was interesting because it was so unprecedented because it is a european ship and europe has all of these agreements that
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you cannot just block the ship to enter your ports. it became an enormous scandal. the european union, the dutch minister of foreign affairs had to intervene -- in the end, it didn't solve the situation because the ship could not sail in. but we challenged this decision of the portuguese minister of defense in the european courts for human rights, and we won the case. it has been rectified in the end. but i think what was interesting as a result of this action of the ministry of defense is that there was new norm is debate in portugal -- enormous debate in portugal. one of the results was, the portuguese government fell. the most important issue on the new elections that were taking place two or three months later was the legalization of abortion
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and abortion was legalized three years after that. i think it had an enormous impact. it showed clearly the portuguese people had a very different opinion on whether women can have access to safe abortion. >> this is a clip of "women on waves" first trip that you took to ireland. this is dr. rebecca gomperts responding to questions from a reporter who asked if she'd ever had an abortion herself. >> hundreds of people are involved. they're all doing this with their hearts and not because they had an abortion. but he to ask someone working for amnesty international whether they have been tortured? that is not the issue. the issue is women have basic human rights to decide what is happening with their own bodies. >> dr. gomperts, later in the film you actually reveal on a portuguese talkshow that you did have an abortion and that in
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fact, at that time on the talkshow, you are pregnant. can you talk about the decision to speak out about your own experience, about your abortion him and also your children? >> well, i think one of the main reasons why abortion is still so restricted is because of the enormous taboo and shame that comes with it. so i think coming out is a very important part of the struggle to legalize abortion and to, let's say, normalize it. abortion is a very common event. one in five women in the netherlands has had an abortion and they have the lowest abortion rate in the world. i think for me, what was the problem at the moment this question was asked in ireland,
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it was the first campaign, it was very tense. i thought it was not fair to diminish an effort like that of so many people to a kind of psychologizing bit like, oh, she had an abortion, that is why she did it. like me, there are a lot of other women who have had abortions in their lives, and i wish all of these would have become abortion rights. at the moment in the talkshow in portugal, something else was the matter. i had done something quite extreme. i had shown to the public how women can do it abortion themselves with the medicines. at this moment, there was this man from the antiabortion rights man that was attacking me. i don't know, i mean, a lot of these decisions are intuition.
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it is not like i planned this ahead. but i think at that point it was a very good moment because it also kind of neutralized the very outspoken act of actually putting abortion in the hands of women themselves, which i had done just before, by explaining use these medicines. >> diana whitten, you're done this remarkable film called "vessel." can you talk about the use of these two pills? i don't think that many women in the u.s. know about it as used for abortion, and how they are used in the united states? >> in the u.s., medical abortion is offered in health clinics, so it is an option in the states. it is a tuple regimen that is most highly effective. most of the world work abortion is illegal, the second token be used on its own to induce abortion.
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one of the things that "vessel" does is contextualize that kill and give it global context. -- that pill and give a global context. it is a bit of a trojan horse to find and take that pill somewhat to win rebecca when a portuguese television, the film has a segment or we describe the pill vicious providers and women around the world using it. >> and women on web provides that information. it used to be women from mexico would come up to the u.s. to get an abortion and texas and no women in the u.s. are going to mexico? >> the landscape has changed so dramatically. >> we're going to continue this conversation and posted online at. it is remarkable film called "vessel diana whitten is the director. gomperts has been our guest from amsterdam, founded women on waves and women on web. democracy now! is looking for feedback from people who
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appreciate the closed captioning. e-mail your comments to or mail them to democracy now! p.o. box 693 new york, new york 10013. [captioning made possible by democracy now!] sometimes i want to eat something warm and comforting - the edible equivalent to being curled up on a sofa in front of a big, roaring fire. this, for me is perfect soul food.
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